Gas tax increase unpopular but needed

Published 10:26 am Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The message was clear at a meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors Monday: more funding is needed for roads and bridges.

Lincoln County is in the Top 5 among counties in the number of roads and bridges to maintain, but is only in the mid-20s in assessed values. That means the county has more roads and bridges and fewer tax dollars to maintain them compared to some counties.

It’s no secret the county’s roads and bridges are in bad shape. But where will the funding to repair or replace them come from?

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We’ve argued for an increase in the gas tax and the Board of Supervisors largely agreed that’s the most logical way to generate the funds. The very people who depend on safe roads and bridges would help fund their maintenance with an increased fuel tax.

According to estimates, it would take about a nickel increase in the 18 cent tax to fund the improvements needed statewide. So instead of paying $2.15 for a gallon of gas, we would pay $2.20. While no one wants to pay more for gas, it is the best way to get the infrastructure improvements we need.

The Legislature has signaled that an increase in the gas tax isn’t likely to happen though. That leaves only one source of revenue for the county — ad valorem taxes.

Either way, the county would get the revenue it needs. But an increase in ad valorem taxes doesn’t make as much sense as an increase in the gas tax. Property owners would owe the county more, but what about those who don’t own property yet drive the county’s roads? They wouldn’t be sharing in the burden of improving roads.

That doesn’t seem fair. Individuals who don’t live here yet drive local roadways also wouldn’t share in that burden if ad valorem taxes increase.

If you agree that an increase in the gas tax is the most logical way to fund infrastructure improvements, local legislators need to hear your voice. Contact them and let them know that a fuel tax increase if the best way to fund road and bridge improvements. We realize it would be odd for people to call and request a tax increase, but nothing in this life is free — that includes roads and bridges.